Primordial Origins of Earth's Carbon

Abstract : It is commonly assumed that the building blocks of the terrestrial planets were derived from a cosmochemical reservoir that is best represented by chondrites, the so-called chondritic Earth model. This view is possibly a good approximation for refractory elements (although it has been recently questioned; e.g., Caro et al. 2008), but for volatile elements, other cosmochemical reservoirs might have contributed to Earth, such as the solar nebula gas and/or cometary matter (Owen et al. 1992; Dauphas 2003; Pepin 2006). Hence, in order to get insights into the origin of the carbon in Earth, it is necessary to compare: (i) the elemental abundances and isotopic compositions of not only carbon, but also other volatile elements in potential cosmochemical “ancestors,” and (ii) the ancestral compositions with those of terrestrial volatiles. This approach is the only one that has the potential for understanding the origin of the carbon in Earth but it has several intrinsic limitations. First, the terrestrial carbon budget is not well known, and, for the deep reservoir(s) such as the core and the lower mantle, is highly model-dependent (Dasgupta 2013; Wood et al. 2013). Second, the cosmochemical reservoir(s) that contributed volatile elements to proto-Earth may not exist anymore because planet formation might have completely exhausted them (most of the mass present in the inner solar system is now in Venus and Earth). Third, planetary formation processes (accretion, differentiation, early evolution of the atmospheres) might have drastically modified the original elemental and isotopic compositions of the volatile elements in Earth. Despite these limitations, robust constraints on the origin(s) of the carbon in Earth can be deduced from comparative planetology of volatile elements, which is the focus of this chapter.
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Bernard Marty, C.M.O'.D. Alexander, Sean N. Raymond. Primordial Origins of Earth's Carbon. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Mineralogical Society, 2013, 75, pp.149-181. ⟨10.2138/rmg.2013.75.6⟩. ⟨hal-01346324⟩



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